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Northern Adventure Tours mix luxury camping, gourmet meals

Wed., May 7, 2014

A new outfitter offers the chance to glamp, or camp glamorously, from Spokane to Alaska, dining along the way on local ingredients prepared by a private chef in a mobile commercial kitchen.

Northern Adventure Tours aims to reinvent the classic American roadtrip, providing private vehicles and luxury camping accommodations (Read: canvas tents with queen-sized beds and other amenities like Wi-Fi and hot showers) as well as gourmet meals.

The Alaska-based company offers all-inclusive, one-way driving-and-camping tours through five national parks and four mountain ranges. The route crosses the Continental Divide four times.

Glampers drive their own rental vehicles, allowing them to stop and explore or take hikes at their leisure. When they arrive at designated campsites in the evenings, tents will be already set up. A campfire might be burning, too.

Dinner on driving days – some legs require eight hours in autos – will take place around 7:30 or 8 p.m. Breakfast will be served no later than 9 a.m. Glampers will be given boxed lunches for the road.

Many of the ingredients will be sourced along the route. Cheeses, meats and vegetables will largely come from dairies and farms in the Kootenay Rockies and southern British Columbia.

“That’s where we’ll spend the majority of our nights along the way,” said co-founder Joe Hardenbrook, 36, of Fairbranks.

Hardenbrook, who’s worked as a cook and caterer for more than seven years, plans to shop at farmers markets in Alaska; White Horse, Yukon Territory; and Spokane. He also plans to use coffee from roasters along the route, like Oso Negro Organic Coffee Roaster in Nelson, British Columbia, and Diving Duck in Fairbanks.

“I’m a big local-food proponent,” he said.

Northern Adventure is starting this summer with custom and private tours, which are still available. The company is also taking reservations for summer 2015, when it will begin offering package tours.

The 12-day northbound tour starts at $3,995 for the first traveler and leaves from Spokane. The eight-day southbound tour starts at $2,995 and ends in Spokane. Additional travelers in the same car are $995.

Both tours travel through the Canadian Rockies, Coastal Range and Yukon Territory, taking in the sights: glaciers, hot springs and wildlife.

“We’re basically taking the scenic route,” said Hardenbrook, noting the company only considered two locations for the Pacific Northwest destination – or starting point, depending on the direction of the tour.

Seattle lost.

“With Seattle, the first few days of driving you’re going to spend on the I-5 corridor,” said Hardenbrook, who traces his roots to Spokane, where his great-grandparents are buried. His grandfather was born in Usk.

Hardenbrook himself grew up in Idaho and Western Washington.

“The second night out of Spokane, you’re staying in the Jasper National Park” in Alberta, Canada, he said. “Once you leave Spokane, the biggest city we’ll be going through is White Horse, Yukon Territory, which is about 20,000 people. We cater to the small-group folks who want to get off the beaten path.”

Glampers are assisted by a three-person staff: tour guide, camp master and Hardenbrook, the chef. Combined, the men already have more than 30 Alaska Highway trips under their belts. By the end of this summer, their first season, they expect to have made the journey a grand total of more than 40 times in all.

To celebrate their first season – as well as foods of the north – Hardenbrook is sharing a few recipes he designed for home cooks.

Sample menus for the glamping trips are available on the outfitter’s website.

Real Boreal Oatmeal

From Joe Hardenbrook of Northern Adventure Tours

Maple trees don’t grow in Alaska, but birch trees do. Birch syrup has a darker, richer flavor than its maple cousin. Alaskan blueberries are much smaller than southern varieties, packed with antioxidants and a very tart flavor. This oatmeal, free from processed sugars and packed with fruit, nuts and fiber, provides a healthy, hearty start to an on-the-road adventure.

1 cup pecans

2/3 cup steel cut oats

1 cup water

1 cup milk (cow, almond, coconut, soy or rice)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped dates or other dried fruit

4 teaspoons Alaskan birch syrup (substitute maple syrup, honey or molasses to taste)

1/2 cup Alaskan blueberries (fresh, frozen, dried or in jam)

1 apple, chopped

1 banana, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast pecans in baking pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Toast steel cut oats in dry pan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Add water, milk, oil, salt, dates and 2 teaspoons syrup. Return to heat and bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until oatmeal almost reaches desired consistency. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes; it will thicken. Split chopped apples between two bowls. Top with oatmeal, bananas, blueberries, pecans and reserved syrup.

On the road: Toast oatmeal and pecans in advance. Combine oatmeal, salt, dried fruit and ¼ cup powdered milk in sealable container. When preparing, use 2 cups water instead of water and milk mixture. Prepare according to directions.

Yield: 2 hearty servings

Northern Moose & Veggie Chili

From Joe Hardenbrook of Northern Adventure Tours

Moose is a staple of many Alaskan diets. Low in fat and cholesterol, the meat has a very dark, almost purple color and a flavor reminiscent of beef and venison. Gamey flavors can be reduced by tossing ground meat with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar before cooking.

Alaskan carrots are a particular treat. The territory’s super-cold soils produce root vegetables of remarkable sweetness.

This healthy recipe works as a vegetarian chili, too – just omit the ground meat.

2 cups dried beans

1 pound ground moose (substitute caribou, venison, turkey or grass-fed beef)

2 tablespoons olive oil

15-ounce can tomato sauce

1 small onion, chopped

10 cloves garlic

Florets from 1 head Alaskan broccoli

2 Alaskan carrots, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 Serrano chili, chopped (seeds removed if less heat is desired)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon pasilla chili powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes

12 ounces amber beer ( Joe Hardenbrook prefers Alaskan Amber)

Soak beans overnight. Drain. Brown moose in 1 tablespoon olive oil until cooked through. Drain and remove moose from pan. Add all seasonings and vegetables except for tomatoes to food processor and process until minced. Cook vegetable mixture in 1 tablespoon olive oil until fragrant, then add tomatoes, moose, beans and beer. Bring to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender. Add additional liquid if necessary.

Yield: 4 hearty servings

Chitina Smoked Salmon Rolls

Every July, millions of salmon begin the trek back to their place of birth. Fishing with set nets, poles, fish wheels or dip nets, many Alaskan families fill their freezers every summer with salmon filets and steaks. Joe Hardenbrook’s wife makes an annual pilgrimage to the ghost town of Chitina (pronounced “CHIT-nuh”) to fish the Copper River, a silty, glacier-fed torrent that conceals multitudes of salmon making their way upstream. Tied off to avoid being swept away, dipnetters use large landing nets on long poles to ensnare fish that can weigh more than 50 pounds. The Hardenbrooks usually freeze half her catch and smoke and can the rest. A salty brine followed by a sweet glaze helps the smoke stick to the fish, darkening the red, flaky flesh. Canning smoked salmon preserves the catch without need for refrigeration, and the high temperatures dissolve the tiny pin bones – making delicious, sweet, smoky filling for sushi.

2 cups brown rice

3 cups water

2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar

6 sushi nori wrappers

1/4 pound firm smoked Alaskan salmon

1 cucumber, seeds removed and chopped into matchsticks

Rinse rice under cold water. Combine rice, water and 1 tablespoon tamari. Bring to a boil, tightly cover and simmer until water is nearly absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

While rice is standing, stir together vinegar and remaining tamari. Transfer rice to a wide nonmetal bowl (preferably wood, ceramic or glass) and sprinkle with vinegar mixture, tossing gently with a large spoon to combine. Cool rice, tossing occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Place sushi mat on a work surface with slats running crosswise. Arrange 1 sheet nori, shiny side down, on mat, lining up a long edge of sheet with edge of mat nearest you. Using damp fingers, gently press one sixth of rice onto nori in 1 layer, leaving a 1 3/4-inch border on side farthest from you.

Arrange smoked salmon in an even strip horizontally across rice, starting 1 inch from side nearest you. (You may need to cut pieces to fit from side to side.) Arrange cucumber matchsticks just above salmon in same manner.

Beginning with edge nearest you, lift mat up with your thumbs, holding filling in place with your fingers, and fold mat over filling so that upper and lower edges of rice meet, then squeeze gently but firmly along length of roll, tugging edge of mat farthest from you to tighten. (Nori border will still be flat on mat.) Open mat and roll log forward to seal with nori border. (Moisture from rice will seal roll.) Transfer roll, seam side down, to a cutting board. Make remaining logs in same manner, then cut each log crosswise into 6 pieces with a wet thin-bladed knife. Serve with wasabi paste, soy sauce, and ginger.

Yield: 6 (6-inch) sushi rolls

On the web: Find a recipe for Yukon Quest Fruit and Veggie Smoothies at

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